Upon returning from the Women’s March on Washington, DC, I continue to be inspired by the idea that making art is a form of resistance and struggle. In a throng of five hundred + thousand, and in the midst of other marches around the states and the world, we marched in solidarity for collective liberty and progressive values.
The march itself was art. Not only were there many expressions of dissent in signs and placards, but the flock and swell of color and sound and movement was entrancing. We are art.
If art is an expression of Self, and a gift to Other, then it is a way for us to build community and understanding between people who think, feel, and interact in different ways. It is a means for us to connect to the experiences that surround us, but that most of the time we are blind to.
The day after the march I visited the National Gallery of Art for the first time. It has been a LOT of years since I have made the time to visit a museum by myself, to take in color, light, texture, scent, without children or a partner of any sort. Beauty is important food.
It got me thinking a lot about creation and destruction and the whipping spiral of polarity.
And the difference between art as an act of creation and art as an act of replication.
This from my time in Reggio Emilia last Spring:
As we were asking questions at the Matriri di Sesso preschool today, a colleague gave the example of a child who was drawing a flower from a still life at the table. The child drew the flower like you would expect a child to draw a flower.
The idea of a flower: stem, some petals, a leaf or two…
The teacher continued to encourage the child to look closely, and after a couple of typical drawings, the child drew a picture that represented a realistic aesthetic of the flower. The colleague then asked how much time in Reggio Emilia the children spend creating art that is typical, and how much teachers push children to create art that is representational.
The atelierista answered in this way:
“I personally believe in the importance of stereotypes, especially for children. But then it is also important for children to break stereotypes, especially as it pertains to uncovering difference.”
By stereotype, he meant the typical flower drawing. By breaking stereotypes, I believe he meant looking closely at the differences between what we think we know, and what is actually there.
What stunned me was the layer of understanding that I gained about the connection between art-making and anti-bias work.
How does supplying a diversity of materials and experiences, and asking children to be both fantastical and on the other hand precise, create both stereotypes and the breaking of stereotypes? In relationship to the flower drawing, how does this experience have the potential to open our brains and spirits, and lift us out of rigid thinking, and especially in terms of anti-bias education?
When we offer children the experience of looking closely in art, how do they translate that to ideas of difference within people? Does it help them to be curious? Does it help them to negate the idea that we are all the same?
What are the ways that artistic expression, poeticism, and the 100 languages specifically and pointedly feed into us- as human beings- being able to executively break down barriers within ourselves and between us and Other?
While at the NGA in DC, I spent some time taking photos. At first, when in the gallery, I felt self-conscious taking pictures. I felt like a tourist, someone who was not interacting “correctly” with the art. And then in re-interpreting my attempts at picture-taking, I created some art of my own.
What we are really fighting for is beauty and the freedom to experience things in an independent and unique way. What we are fighting for is the right to be. Art allows us the freedom to express our experience. Of stereotype. Of essence.
I want to revisit these ideas with our teachers. How do we approach art-making with children at our school? Why is it important to engage children in a deeper and more complex experience of art? How does art help us to understand difference? To remain in dialogue, not just with the world around us, but with each other? How does art-making contribute to the very act of being human?
Children know that art is life. How can we- as fellow craftspeople, marvels, viruosos, dancers, soloists, ensemblists, thespians, writers, poets, photographers, builders and dreamers- join them?